The first pre-season tilt is in the books and the interest in this game seemed to be on par with a mid-season Battle Of Ontario. Fans in Ottawa without NHL Centre Ice scrambled to find the game streaming on the internet and even went so far as to register with Leafs TV online using Toronto postal codes they don't actually live in to pass the security screening process. As usual, watching Senators pre-season hockey requires basic computer hacking skills or $150 cable bills.
Despite the rabid interest, the results of these games are still basically meaningless. What everyone tunes in to see is individual performances from rookies and vets alike, gauging everyone's chances and prematurely trashing them at the same time.
So if we are to look at individual performances against the Leafs, a few names stand out on the Sens side, and the first, to me, is undoubtedly Peter Regin. Playing on a line with Nikita Filatov (who also impressed with his speed and drive to the net), Regin looked like a man truly fighting for his job in front of a new coach who will have no inclination to do any favours for Regin just because the winger turned heads a couple of years ago in the playoffs.
Since that Pittsburgh series in 2010, Regin has been lost due to various circumstances, mostly just poor play which at times seemed unexplainable.
But tonight, Regin hounded the puck all over the ice, created chances with Filatov, backchecked like a madman and skated his ass off at all other moments.
All the hype coming into camp was on Mika Zibanejad and Stephane Da Costa possibly costing Regin his job. Now he's back in the equation big time. If Regin plays with the same intensity the rest of camp, how in the hell is MacLean going to ignore him?
Jared Cowen also made a huge statement tonight with a couple of goals, a fight and a physical presence, especially in middle stages of the game when the Sens were at their best. During a pre-game interview with Gord Wilson on the Team 1200, coach Paul MacLean tried his best not to say Jared Cowen had been too "casual" during the rookie tourney, but he basically did anyways. Cowen seemed just a little pedestrian to start tonight but looked authoritative in his scrap and when he converted a nice behind the net pass from Nikita Filatov. If Cowen is truly ready, and I think he is, the mistakes will decrease as he gets over the initial nerves of early camp. But who's kidding who? Cowen already has a roster spot reserved for him. Tonight just reinforced that notion.
Erik Karlsson looked dominant at times with the puck and he is primed to have a huge offensive season. No surprise there.
Colin Greening obviously didn't lose anything over the summer and he used his big body to create havoc every time he went into the corner and along the boards for the puck. You get the feeling he's too good to stay on any fourth line for too long. He might end up being one of those "plug and play" types. When a line needs some energy or a fresh look, put Greening out with them and let him work the game to death for a while.
Mika Zibanejad looked great in the first half and faded a little, but he already has the look of a pro and it must be somewhat better than 50/50 that he gets to stay in Ottawa this year. He may be too good already to pass up.
David Rundblad sometimes looked great and sometimes like he was watching instead of skating. Yet when he had the puck, he was making things happen and he has that NHL style patience with the puck on the blueline that tells you he's pretty much ready to run a power-play, even if it's the second unit. He could learn the game better in the NHL than the AHL where power-plays tend to be more scrambly and less structured.
Milan Michalek was skating well and looked healthy. Coach says he's fine after blocking a shot and going down in pain during the 3rd.
As for the negatives, it's probably unfair to dump on guys after one pre-season game. Patrick Wiercioch didn't help his status much against the Leafs but it's unlikely he's really challenging for a spot anyways with Cowen and Rundblad clearly ahead of him.
Both goalies, Alex Auld and Robin Lehner, were just okay, if typically pre-season rusty. Nothing to read into.
Hey, hockey's back. Time for a beer.
Leafs play-by-play legend Joe Bowen is in mid-season form already, calling David Rundblad "Runbald" or "Rumball", not sure which. Even Don Cherry would wince at that one....Like I said in a tweet earlier today, I have faith the Senators won't subject the fanbase to a Nickelback "goal song", no matter the results from a good intentioned Facebook poll. The problem with good intentions is that they often pave the path to Hell, and if Senators fans have to listen to Nickelback all year (undoubtedly the lamest band in a world stock full of lame bands), then we will all live in Hades and swim in the lake of fire for eternity. The funny thing is that Leaf fans have caught on to what's happening and are currently voting en masse in favour of Nickelback as some kind of cruel joke. Have to admit that's pretty goddamn clever.… ......Filatov is wearing #21 in camp (Zenon Konopka, the vet is wearing Filatov's Columbus #28) and unfortunately there hasn't been much star power behind the sweater #21 in Sens history. Bryan Smolinkski (2003-2006) wore it while he was here, as did the long forgotten but highly skilled Andreas Johansson (1999). Fan faves Steve Martins (02-03 - his second stint in Ottawa) and Dennis Vial (94-98) wore it as well....
.....Has there ever been a new NHL jersey or logo that hasn’t been leaked days, if not weeks, before the club wanted to unveil it? I know, I know, the Jets kept their jerseys under wraps (though the logo was leaked) but the Jets are so intrinsically secretive that they make the tight-lipped Harper government look like the Wiki Leaks organization. But thanks to websites like Icethetics and Uni Watch, the once underground obsession about sports uni’s has gone mainstream, and like anything else considered news, people crave scoops and early insider info. And we’ve been getting it for years now with grainy cell phone photos and 3rd generation photocopied templates of official designs. This is really a marketing department’s worst nightmare because they always strive to make a maximum impact with a highly publicized release date that creates suspense and hype along the way. These leaks really let the air out the tires because only a small portion of any fan base follows the blogs that release these images, but the blogs do a great job of blowing up the story to the point where a mainstream paper like the Ottawa Sun is forced to go with it or else look like they are oblivious to the story. Then the image that gets out to everybody is a poor photo with bad colour. The image of the Sens uni that got taken at that Sabres Store doesn’t truly show the “Heritage White” colour the way it should and now instead of fans getting a proper look at the sweater through the team website, they’re all seeing it for the first time in a technically poor manner. Now I’m not complaining. I want to see them as soon as possible like anyone else. Perhaps clubs should stop trying to be so secretive and push up their dates so they control the process and not some security guard who happened to spot a prototype sitting on the back of an office chair and decided to be Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward for a day. Hockey fans are starved for hockey news in the summer. Conventional wisdom says no one pays attention in June, July and August because of vacations etc. But a well-timed jersey release at that time also wouldn’t be competing with training camp stories and would ensure a lot of attention. They could have even sold a couple thousand by now……. Classy move by the Senators to have bilingual shoulder patches on their vintage uni's. It's a misconception that most francophones in this bilingual town are still Habs fans......
….. Just the fact Drew Doughty is actually holding out during training camp reminds you how rare it is under the current CBA. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, there were always multiple cases of high profile players sitting out every training camp, often well into the season. How many times did Keith Tkachuk have a contract dispute that cause him to miss time? I’m guessing at least three. Then there was Alexei Yashin, Sergei Fedorov, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Allison, Rob Blake, Pavel Bure, John LeClair and many, many others. Doughty’s case is not considered normal operating procedure anymore, and that’s something we can all be thankful for….. And yes, Kyle Turris doesn't count.....John Michael Liles will prove to be a smart pickup by Brian Burke and the Leafs.......Hard to believe the NHL Awards show didn’t win an Emmy last night. A crushing blow, but they will stumble on, and try to be just a little more awkward next year.……It could very well end up being the most expensive rookie dinner in Senators history this year. With so many first year guys bound to make the team, the vets will spare no expense on the champagne and brandy…..If Mika Zibanejad is destined to be one of the rookies this year, he will be only the fourth “Mika” in history to play in the NHL alongside Mika Alatalo (Phoenix), Mika Noronen (Buffalo) and Mika Pyorala (Philadelphia). I always thought Mika was just a shortened nickname version of Mikael in Sweden but Zibanejad is listed only as Mika in any official team document I’ve seen. Perhaps someone versed in the particulars of Swedish names can fill us in. Also, what about Miikka Kiprusoff? As usual, I’m confused…..
Till next time...